City Guide / Tucson

What Is the Cost of Living in Tucson?

By Bri Hand | Dec 20, 2021
Yellow and green entrance of a home in the Barrio Viejo neighborhood of Tucson, Arizona.

For most of us, budgeting isn’t necessarily a fun activity. While having some more money in your pocket is definitely a plus, taking the time to figure out your expenses can be time-consuming and complex, especially when you’re moving to a new city. 

While you make your final preparations for your new life in Tucson, check out this informative guide to find out how far your dollar will stretch. It will explore everything you need to know about the cost of living in Tucson, AZ, and you might even find some clever new ways to save!

This guide will focus on major expenditures, including:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment

Let’s get started

Rent costs in Tucson, AZ

At the top of the list when it comes to expenses is rent. No matter where you choose to live in this Arizona city, you’ll need a roof over your head. The cost of housing is often all about location—some of the most popular neighborhoods in Tucson command a significantly higher rent price or housing costs than others.

To that end, you’ll need to balance where you want to live with how much you want to spend on rent each month on your housing.   

Keep an eye on rent prices in the best neighborhoods in Tucson to get a clear idea of the costs. If you’re looking for a simpler way to find your home, there are also inclusive housing networks designed to make the process easier.

With all that in mind, here are some general facts to keep in mind when living in Tucson:

  • Relatively low rent: While prices certainly range, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in town is around $700. That’s more than $300 less than the national average, so there are serious possibilities for savings here.
  • High demand: With more than a 6% increase in population over the past 10 years, this Arizona city is rapidly expanding, with a high demand for apartments. You may find yourself competing with several other potential tenants, so finding a place can take some time and effort.
  • Community amenities: Part of the cost of rent may go toward community amenities like a pool or fitness center. Tucson residents are always looking for a way to beat the heat, so it may be worthwhile to spend a little more on an apartment that features a few places to cool down.

Rent is a top-ticket item, so you’ll want to weigh your options carefully. Pet policies and community rules may also be deciding factors alongside the inevitable price tag. Luckily, whether you’re looking to move into a historical home or a modern high-rise, there’s a place for you in this Arizona town.

Utilities costs in Tucson, AZ

Unless your rent also includes utilities, the cost of gas, electricity, water, and sewage are additional monthly expenses you may have to manage. While your usage will vary, the average utility costs can be helpful to put things in perspective and give you a reference number, in case you think your bill looks off.

When calculating your monthly utility costs, be sure to consider:

  • Lower gas, higher electric usage: Tucson’s temperate climate means you’ll be turning your heat on significantly less than your northern neighbors. That said, you’ll likely be cranking the AC when the weather hits the triple digits in the summer. With an average monthly cost of $120 in electricity, Tucson residents are only paying slightly more than the typical American.
  • Potential for solar: With all the sunny weather, Arizona is a prime location for investing in solar panels. If you’re renting, you can inquire about the potential savings that investing in solar energy can provide to you and your landlord—it could be a win-win that benefits the planet, too.
  • Wi-Fi: Although you may not think of it as a utility, home internet is typically a necessity for most Americans. In this Arizona city, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 depending on your plan and internet speed. Fortunately, the city has several internet providers to pick from, so you can find the plan that’s right for you and your budget.
  • Evaporative coolers: To save some money during the drier months, many residents opt to use evaporative coolers as opposed to air conditioners. These cooling fans can provide relief from the heat while keeping your utility bill down—a very cool option.

Monthly utilities rarely exceed more than $200 for a single resident, so while they shouldn’t break your budget, they’re still a costly addition. 

To increase efficiency and decrease your bills, make sure your windows are sealed properly, your air conditioner is properly serviced, and your pipes are flowing smoothly. If there’s ever a problem, don’t hesitate to seek solutions from your landlord or management staff.

Transportation costs in Tucson, AZ

Planning on going anywhere? Unless you’re hoofing it, the transportation costs should be a factor when finalizing your budget. Whether you’re a daily commuter or have the flexibility to come and go as you please, you’ll likely end up paying for a ride at some point during your time in town. 

If you’re curious about the average transportation costs in this Arizona town, consider the following:

  • Trains, buses, and shuttles: Tucson public transit includes the Sun Link train line, the Sun Tran bus lines, various city shuttles, and vans. All of these transportation options offer extremely affordable options for traversing the city. Fare is usually less than a couple of dollars and is often free for city residents, so look forward to comfortable convenience at an unbeatable price.
  • Registration and insurance: Residents who prefer to drive a personal vehicle can look forward to competitive rates for car insurance, with an average price tag of about $1,500. You’ll also need to pay the Arizona Vehicle License Tax and for registration before you can experience the joy of the open road.
  • Gas prices: While the price of gas is far from a stable number, Tucson suffers from slightly higher gas prices than most states on average. While you may be paying a bit more at the pump, keep in mind that the general wear and tear that vehicles suffer in Tucson is significantly less than that in snowier, rainier areas. Sometimes, there’s a silver lining!

While you’re adding up your transportation costs, don’t forget that there’s another way to travel across the city without extra fees. Cycling is extremely popular in Tucson, partially because of the easy access to bike routes, and partially because you can ride all year without putting snow tires on your bike.

While it might not be part of your daily commute, investing in a bike could be a great way to see the city and keep your transportation cost to the absolute minimum.

Groceries and restaurants costs in Tucson, AZ

Sooner or later, you’re going to get hungry. Whether you’re eating out or cooking, the price of food can make a fairly large dent in your monthly budget. However, the average cost of food in Tucson is lower than the national average, with minimal monthly costs coming to around $315.

With that said, you may want to factor in some other aspects relating to food before moving to Tucson, including:

  • Elevated dining: For the past few years, Tucson has continued to expand on its culinary reputation, with plenty of newer restaurants offering culinary experiences that rival bigger cities. With so many great options in town, you may end up spending a little more than you initially expect! Even if you’re not a foodie, new transplants are known to have an increased appetite after trying the local fare.
  • Farmers markets: If you’re searching for fresh or locally grown produce, Tucson offers several open-air farmers markets, many of which run year-round. You might reduce prices in comparison to the local supermarket, but if you’re looking for specialty ingredients, be prepared to pay top dollar.
  • Average meal costs: A reasonably priced meal isn’t hard to find in Tucson. If you’re looking to dine out without anything fancy, expect to spend about $14 for a single meal. This could be anything from tacos to sushi, so don’t think your options are limited just because you’re not breaking the bank.

Tucson is certainly a great city for foodies, but anyone with an appetite will find themselves satisfied with the city’s many culinary offerings. Whether you’re dining extravagantly, simply, or somewhere in between, Tucson is never lacking when it comes to flavor.

Entertainment costs in Tucson, AZ

A budget shouldn’t only include the necessities. To fully understand the cost of living in Tucson, you must also include the many fun things to do in Tucson!

To that end, don’t forget to factor in entertainment expenses, such as:

  • Shopping: With two major malls and several outdoor outlets, you can always count on Tucson to provide the latest in fashion, electronics, and home goods. Whether you’re looking to revitalize your wardrobe or your home’s decor, shopping is a necessary expense for many of us.
  • Fitness: While there are plenty of outdoor trails to hike, jog, and climb, you may want to consider a gym membership if you’re looking to fulfill all your fitness needs—especially during the sweltering summer months. While the cost of a gym membership can start as low as $30, you may end up paying considerably more depending on the facilities you’re interested in. 
  • Casinos: For roulette, blackjack, or poker, head over to any of Tucson’s five casinos. Whether you’re a high-roller or a casual player, the city’s gaming options offer a unique way to spend the evening and take a bit of risk. 

Don’t forget, there are plenty of budget-neutral options for Tucson residents. Hike your way through the surrounding mountains or kick back in the shade at a local park. If you’re looking for a free way to spend your free time, the options are nearly as endless as Tucson’s desert vista. 

Cut out extra costs with Landing

At the end of the day, Tucson is an affordable American city with numerous culinary, transportation, and entertainment perks. If you’re looking to start cashing in on everything the city has to offer, there’s only one place left to go—Landing

Find a fully furnished apartment in Tucson through our membership-based network. Plus, with no application fees or security deposits, you’ll have another easy way to cut your costs. Ready to land right where you belong? Join Landing today.

Trying to decide between living in Tucson and Phoenix? Check out our blog, “Tucson vs. Phoenix: Which City Is Right for You?

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.